Getting out of your comfort zone always gives you better perspective and appreciation for what you know (and for what you don’t know!).
As a part of my HR Strategy Series, I’m talking to top experts in the field to teach prospects what hiring managers are actually looking for, while also supporting business leaders in their hiring and retention strategies. Today I had the pleasure of talking with Brigette McInnis-Day.
Brigette brings more than 20 years of experience to Google Cloud and has a passion for leading large-scale, global teams and helping individuals succeed through innovation. In her role, she oversees HR for Google Cloud, with a focus on acquiring and developing amazing talent and shaping the culture to drive business growth and transformation.
Prior to Google, Brigette was the Chief Operating Officer (COO) of SAP SuccessFactors, one of the world’s largest cloud-based human capital management providers. In addition to COO, Brigette has managed board-level HR & Digital Transformation strategies led global organizational change and redesign, and consulted senior-level executives.
Thank you so much for doing this with us Brigette! First, please tell us what brought you to this specific career path?
I was raised with high expectations and empowerment where it was reinforced that if I wanted something, I was encouraged to go after it and prove those wrong who underestimate my abilities, even at a very young age. At 15 years old, I started waiting tables, and I did so throughout college. Working in the service industry requires a lot of hustle, offers instant rewards, and you learn so much about human behaviors as you meet people from all walks of life. In retrospect, I think this early working experience planted the seed for my undergraduate studies in Psychology and Business, and later my Masters in Organizational Psychology.
Coming out of graduate school, HR was a natural fit for my interests, and I enjoyed an early career in HR consulting where I had the opportunity to be exposed to several industries and spent most of my time in the high technology space during the dot-com boom. I fell in love with the tech industry because it’s constantly creating new ways to incentivize, responding to rapid change and innovation, and its high growth.
No matter the role opportunity or organization, the three things I have pursued in my career include culture, innovation, and high growth. That’s what had me so excited about my current role leading HR for Google Cloud. Google has a unique culture that’s driven by innovation, ownership, collaboration, inclusion, transparency, and a healthy disregard for the impossible.
Google Cloud is experiencing enterprise-scale fast growth, and at the heart of our culture in Cloud is a focus on customer empathy as we co-innovate with our customers to reimagine their business and help solve their toughest challenges. It’s an incredibly exciting time to be here.
Can you share the most interesting or funny story that happened to you since you started this career and what lesson you learned from that?
Before Google Cloud, I was at SAP, where I was given the opportunity to work abroad at their German headquarters. My husband and I packed up our babies and left our familiar Pennsylvania surroundings for Walldorf, Germany, with our three-year-old and five-month-old in tow. The adjustment was exciting and challenging — I uprooted my family to a new place, took on a new role in the company, and had to learn an entirely new language from scratch. Simply figuring out how to use the washing machine and the dishwasher was an experience — we never knew there were that many ways to wash our clothes!
Getting out of your comfort zone always gives you better perspective and appreciation for what you know (and for what you don’t know!). I’m grateful for the experience and global perspective that the opportunity afforded me and my family. Not to mention, the language barrier also served me well a few times — I distinctly remember trying to order a slice of linzer torte at a bakery and quickly realized I had forgotten a few crucial German words as they packaged up the entire pie for me to bring home! It was surely a humbling experience and an adventure every day.
Now let’s jump into the main focus of our series. Hiring can be very time-consuming and difficult. Can you share some techniques that you use to identify the talent that would be best suited for the job you want to fill?
It’s been an interesting experiment to conduct all interviews virtually over the last several months, but the attributes remain, and in many ways have been able to emulate, the in-person interview process via collaboration tools online. One of the biggest accelerators to supporting employees during this time was our ability to leverage our own technology to drive remote collaboration — shifting all interviews to virtual overnight on Google Meet.
At Google, we look for several key attributes in every candidate. We ask open-ended questions to learn a candidate’s ability to learn, adapt, process information on the fly, and solve problems creatively. Every candidate is assessed using clear rubrics, and we use those rubrics for all people being considered for that role so that everyone is evaluated from a consistent perspective, allowing their distinctiveness to emerge.
We are looking for talent who are culture adds to align with our Cloud culture of empathy for our customers, and our people. To achieve this, we must bring together a diverse mix of voices, backgrounds and experiences to help us better understand our customers, make better decisions, and drive better outcomes.
We also look at leadership (particularly inclusive leadership) to determine if the candidate actively seeks out and considers different views and perspectives from their own to inform better decision-making. Leaders who bring out the differences in their teams and create an environment of empowerment are a great fit to lead during times of change and transformation.
With so much noise and competition out there, what are your top ways to attract and engage the best talent in an industry when they haven’t already reached out to you?
One of our core values at Google is “respect the opportunity.” That value applies to how we think about attracting and engaging the best talent to the company; I believe it’s important to never take for granted that you are not a candidate’s only option.
We also focus on articulating how a potential candidate will be a culture add, not just a culture fit. If a candidate can feel valued for what they’re able to uniquely contribute to the organization at the onset, they are more likely to succeed long-term.
What are the 3 most effective strategies you use to retain employees?
Number one is the need for transparency and a two-way dialogue. At Google, we encourage information sharing in a variety of ways. For example, in Cloud, we conduct regular “Pulse” surveys which help us understand our Googlers’ challenges and quickly identify ways to move faster, work more collaboratively and inclusively, and act more decisively to keep up with the speed of the market and the needs of our customers. This has been particularly helpful while we operate as an entirely distributed organization through the pandemic.
Second is making sure employees see a runway for their career. I have always found that people will work really hard and be committed to their work, but that needs to be paired with the knowledge that their work is valued. It’s important to demonstrate opportunities for career advancement and growth. If your employees look a couple of years out and don’t see a home or aspiration for their future within the company, they can quickly become demotivated.
Finally, we want to make sure our Googlers feel cared for. The pandemic disrupted our former work routines, but it also disrupted personal lives. At Google, we expanded our Carers Leave to 14 weeks so that our teams could take the time they need to take care of their families amidst school and daycare closures. We also gave Googlers additional time off to support our Googlers’ wellbeing in light of COVID-19.
One more before we go: If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?
I’d answer your question with another question: “What would happen if every leader was empowered to lead, and every employee was empowered to experiment?” That level of empowerment is what I believe truly leads to innovation breakthroughs that change the world. The movement required for this that I would want to inspire is around psychological safety. In other words: giving employees empowerment and accountability to take risks, knowing that they’re supported by inclusive leaders.
Google embarked on two studies around what makes a great team and great leader with Project Aristotle and Project Oxygen, and one of the key insights from those studies found that teams with high rates of psychological safety were better than other teams at implementing diverse ideas and driving high performance. They were also more likely to stay with the company.
Thank you so much for sharing your insights with us today!